Anti-Gay NY Town Clerk: Marriages with Animals Next?
A New York town clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite the state’s new law providing family parity says that people marrying animals might be one consequence of the new law.
The clerk, Rose Marie Belforti, told Citizen Link in an Aug. 19 posting that she will not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because "God is the final word," and says that she will turn to a legal group that promotes Biblical law if her superiors refuse to allow her to delegate the job of issuing the licenses to same-sex couples.
Belforti also told Citizen Link that she has been receiving "very slanderous" messages for her refusal to serve gay and lesbian families.
"I am a Christian. God is the final word. He is the Truth, and I believe what the Bible says," Belforti told Citizen Link, which is affiliated with the anti-gay group Focus on the Family.
"It is the law now," Belforti acknowledged, "and I do want to obey the law because God wants me to do that, but personally for me to administer this application to a couple of the same sex would be very difficult.
"And I don’t think it’d do the couple any service to have me as their person, because it really, truly, does grieve the Holy Spirit that resides in my heart, and I don’t know if I’d be able to cover that up for them," the clerk continued. "So, I want to remove myself from this process."
Belforti is not the first clerk to come out against the new law, which does not make any provisions for public employees who feel they cannot serve all members of the public equally due to their faith traditions.
Earlier this year, Barbara MacEwen, the town clerk for Volney, NY, said that she did not want to have to sign her name to legal documents that allowed same-sex families to wed.
"I’m not objecting to having it done here in the office, but I’m objecting to being forced to sign my name to something that is against my morals and my God," MacEwen told the press. "I don’t want to have to leave my position, and I still feel strongly about not wanting to sign, but I’m not sure if there’s another way around it," added MacEwen.
Such signs that government employees might refuse to do their jobs prompted one county’s DA to send out a strongly worded message last month.
"The Marriage Equality Act provides that an application for a marriage license cannot be denied on the grounds that the applicant parties are of the same sex and the law affords no discretion to public officials charged with granting marriage licenses," the letter, sent by Kathleen M. Rice, the DA of Nassau County, read. "Therefore, any such refusal may be subject to criminal prosecution."
Faced with the choice of either abiding by professional standards and doing the job for which she was paid, or adhering to the stipulations of an anti-gay faith tradition, Laura Fortusky, a town clerk in the tiny New York town of Barker, reportedly chose to resign -- an arguably laudable decision, given that it resolved the question of professionalism while preserving the individual’s conscience.
But anti-gay groups have held up her resignation as proof that legal equality for same-sex families is damaging to religious freedoms, even when a marriage equality bill is as carefully crafted to respect anti-gay religious traditions as the one passed by New York lawmakers.
Fortusky said that she had been in contact with anti-gay leaders prior to her resignation, and indicated that she thought laws meant to protect minorities and ensure legal equality for all were inferior to laws she believed God had issued against gays and lesbians.
"I believe that there is a higher law than the law of the land. It is the law of God in the Bible," Fortusky wrote in her letter of resignation. "In Acts 5:29, it states, ’We ought to obey God rather than men.’ "
The letter, which was posted at the website of anti-gay group New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, noted that Fortusky had "been in contact with Jason McGuire from New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms," as well as with "our Town Attorney, Richard Lewis, and a Constitutional Lawyer regarding the Marriage Equality Act that was passed June 24, 2011." What counsel Fortusky might have received from McGuire or others was not specified in the letter.